Douglas County sheriff: 'Red flag bill' could have saved Deputy Parrish's life

Bill would allow law enforcement to seize weapons

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DENVER -- Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock calls himself "a Second Amendment Guy."

"I think everyone should have guns. If you want them you can have them," said Spurlock. "Except for two groups of people. If you're a criminal out committing crimes, I don't think you should have guns. But also if you're in a mental health crisis, we should be able to both protect your from yourself and the community."

That exception hits close to home for the Sheriff, who lost one of his own, Deputy Zackari Parrish, on New Year's Eve. Parrish was shot and killed by a man law enforcement knew was in crisis and had guns, but before the shooting, they couldn't do anything about it.

Spurlock believes a so-called "Red Flag Bill" being discussed at the state Capitol might have changed everything. The measure has not officially been introduced, but discussions have been ongoing.

"The 11 weapons he had in his house, he would not have been able to use because they would have all been secured," said Spurlock.

Here's an overview: The "Red Flag" bill would give family or law enforcement a legal tool to raise a red flag if someone going through a mental health crisis presents a danger to himself or others. They can go to court and get an "Extreme Risk Protection Order" to remove weapons and ammunition from that person's home.

Similar measures have already passed in a handful of states and are being considered in several others.

Opponents say they are concerned about Constitutional rights being violated.

"We are adamantly opposed to these so-called 'Red Flag laws,' which are nothing more than an end-run around due process," said Dudley Brown, with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, in a statement to Denver7.

But supporters like Jane Dougherty, a Littleton resident whose sister was killed at Sandy Hook, believe this bill could help prevent mass shootings.

"What we're trying to do here is save lives," said Dougherty. "And somebody's right to live their life should supersede somebody's right to a gun."

Mental health advocates said the bill would do more to prevent suicides, saying even the NRA supports preventing people in mental health crisis from having guns.

"It's not about gun control, it's about preventing suicide," said Andrew Romanoff, the President & CEO of Mental Health Colorado. "You're not going to prevent every tragedy – no law can do that – but you can make a difference in a problem that is literally a matter of life or death."

Sheriff Spurlock said the bill has due process protections and is common sense. He said the legislative committee for the County Sheriffs of Colorado unanimously voted to support it.

With little time before the legislative session ends, though, he worries it may get bogged down in politics.

"This shouldn't be made political," said Spurlock. "I think this bill will save lives across the board."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., also sent out a string of tweets Monday afternoon in support of "red flag" laws.

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